Zara Mahamat Yacoub 

Originally published in Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film Video and Television. Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ,  2000.

Interview held during FESPACO, February 1997, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.  Several written conversations took place during 1998 by electronic mail.  Translated from French.

Zara, you have been a pioneer in Chadian television history, could you talk about your career in the visual media from the beginning to the present, and about your role in the evolution of television production in Chad?

After completing my studies at the Université de Chad I competed for a slot at the l’Institut national de la communication audiovisuelle in France.  Upon my return to Chad, equipped with a diploma in communication with a specialization in television production I signed a contract to work as a senior ranking civil service employee.  At the time, there was no television network in Chad.  Therefore, I assumed a post in radio as producer and announcer.  The moment that a television network was created, I was called to come on board.  Not only was I the first woman, I was the only woman.  I occupied successively, the role of programming manager and head manager of the National Television of Chad.  In addition, I worked in South Africa as journalist/director at Channel Africa TV in Johannesburg.

You have made three films, Les enfants de la guerre (Children of War), Les enfants de la rue (Children of the Street), and Dilemme au féminin.  Could you talk about the films and your experiences while making them?

Les enfants de la guerre, a fiction film, is a portrait of three children a girl and two boys, all orphans of war.  These children, who have lived through war, experience on a daily basis, the trauma and nightmare of war.  The film is a TVT, Belgium, Television and Sophilm production with the financial assistance of La Coopération Française, L’Agence de la Francophonie and the European Union.

Les enfants de la rue, a documentary, is a story about Oumar, the leader of a gang of “society’s rejects.” Oumar and his friends live in the streets and steal to feed themselves.  They are exposed to all kinds of illnesses, as well as the many risks that are associated with being young children alone on the streets, among which is the danger of pedophilia.  The film is a TVT and Centre Culturel Al-Moumna co-production.

The documentary film, Dilemme au féminin, talks about excision.  The film is a fiction-documentary about a young girl who is a victim of this horrible practice.  She takes us through the multiple contours of the excision operation.  The viewer will witness an actual operation followed by the opinions of various leaders.  Muslim and Christian representatives give their position regarding this practice.  A doctor explains to us the consequences and after-effects of FGM [Female genital mutilation] basing his arguments on concrete cases that have been revealed to him during the course of his medical career.  A TVT Production, this film has been awarded several prizes.  The film has been shown in Europe and North America.

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